The workers at Backyard Farms in Vado, New Mexico have barely begun another day of freeze-drying produce when another truck carrying hundreds of pounds of apples arrives to deliver its load.
Since Backyard Farms began freeze drying food it’s become a beehive of activity. All year long the business freeze dries all types of raw fruits, and vegetables including New Mexico’s famous green chile.
Backyard Farms has become a network for small farms producing healthy local food using the freeze-drying method.
Since the farm qualified for a Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) from USDA Rural Development in September of 2020 the business has grown dramatically.
The VAPG funds paid for working capital which covered labor, materials, supplies and marketing.
There are numerous advantages to freeze-drying food for both the farmer and the consumer. Freeze drying fruits and vegetables produces a healthy, shelf-stable product. This means food can be stored for up to 25 years without spoilage. Also, freeze drying food helps farmers who are about to lose a crop that has been damaged by hail. Or they have fruits and vegetables that need may be lost because the produce is too ripe.
The freeze-drying method is simple. The product is washed, the damage is removed, then the food is sliced and placed in the freeze dryer for 24 hours, then the food is packaged. The result is a healthy edible food which saves the farmer thousands of dollars because otherwise the food would have been thrown away or composted.
Rachel Ryan the owner of Backyard Farms tells people, “Freeze-drying food is cost effective, and ultimately the public benefits because there’s more New Mexico grown products available for consumption.” She says everyone says the same thing when they find out about her business, “What a great idea, how come nobody thought of this before?”
Backyard Farm is currently applying for a USDA Rural Development Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG). The funds from this grant will be used to purchase a new industrial freeze drier which will allow the business to grow even more.